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July 30, 2005

weekend arts & leisure - Cigars

Cigars embody the two most important elements of personal satisfaction: They are enjoyable and they annoy others.

They aren’t for everyone, of course. Some people don’t like the taste. Some don’t like the smell. Others don’t like the projectile vomit. (That is a rare side effect however. Pretty rare anyway.)

Purchasing a quality cigar

So, there you are, in your local CVS drugstore checking out the cigar selection. The first thing you want to do is carefully examine the exit door and then walk through it. What you need to find is a real cigar store. How can you tell if you are in a real cigar store? Ask if they carry nasal spray, women’s hygiene products or Snapple.  If they say no, that’s a good sign. A walk-in humidor is another good sign. 

A humidor is designed to keep cigars at the recommended 70% level of humidity.  Too dry, and a cigar will flare up like a cheap pair of children’s pajamas. Too moist and you might as well try to light up Michael Moore. (Not that we’re recommending that.)

Choosing the right cigar is a purely personal matter and will require much experimentation. Good starter brands include H. Upmann and Macanudo both of which are consistently made, well-constructed, and mild enough that you probably won’t pass out in your burrito. At least not from the cigar.

If you don’t want to be pegged as an obvious newbie while in the humidor here are some useful dos and don’ts:

Roll the cigar slowly between your fingers.
Hold it gently beneath your nose.
Carefully examine the outer wrapper for flaws.

Lick it.
Peel it
Do that Groucho Marx impression your friends say they love. (They’re lying.)

Smoking a cigar

Your first decision before lighting up is whether or not to leave the paper band on. A great deal of controversy surrounds this subject in the cigar world. Why? Because there isn’t all that much controversy in the cigar world. The choice is yours. If anyone wants to engage you in a lengthy discussion regarding your decision tell them that you always do what the voices inside your head tell you and that, wait a minute, they’re saying something about a stranger and a paring knife…

Next you must cut an opening in the cap. There are a number of ways to do this including using various cutters and punches designed specifically for that use. (You can always tell when men are involved in an activity by the vast array of elaborate tools and implements associated with it. Before men started helping with the housework there were brooms, mops and vacuum cleaners. Today there are 42 different kinds of Swiffers. And that’s just for dust.)

The ideal method of lighting a cigar is to use a lit piece of cedar so as not to contaminate the cigar with any foreign impurities.  You will not be doing this. No one does. A disposable butane lighter will work fine. However do try to avoid using items with excessive impurities such as matches, charcoal briquettes and copies of the New York Times.

When lighting the end, turn it slowly while lightly drawing in the smoke. It is very important that you smoke it Clinton-style and not actually inhale. You need only take the smoke up into your mouth. In this way you avail yourself of the single most important health benefit of smoking cigars: Mouth and lip cancer.

Basic Cigar etiquette

There are certain places it is considered rude to smoke cigars. Elevators are one. So are airline cockpits and your in-laws bedroom. In fact, the best place to smoke a cigar is outside.

Speaking of which, there’s a Cohiba with my name on it.


July 30, 2005 at 11:16 PM in Weekend Leisure | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 29, 2005

“struggle, huh, yeah. what is it good for? absolutely nothing. say it again, y'all..."

Recognizing that its old slogan, “the war on terrorism” had grown stale, the Bush administration has begun rolling out an updated version: “the struggle against violent extremism.”

In explaining the change, General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff remarked, “We face different enemies today than we did in World Struggle II or the Cold Struggle and that requires different slogans.”

Some are suspicious that the change is merely an effort to disrupt the activities of those opposed to administration policy. As one activist lamented, “Great, we’ve got like, 5,000 ‘make war no more’ signs. Do you know what it’s going to cost to replace them? And we don’t even have a new slogan yet. The best we’ve come up with so far is ‘we won’t snuggle with this struggle.’ What kind of crap is that?”

Violent extremists have expressed outrage as well.  As one al-Qaeda official put it, “Struggle? We’re just a struggle now? That is an insult! We declare a jihad on the United States.  Again."

The administration is said to have taken suggestions for a new slogan from across the political spectrum from Dick Cheney’s “the fight to kick some Muslim ass” to Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s “the effort to reform misunderstood individuals.” The administration’s choice is not expected to please everyone of course.

But then, struggle is hell.


July 29, 2005 at 11:14 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 28, 2005

the violence is okay though

For political scientists who have spent entire careers searching for the grand unification theory that would finally reconcile liberal and conservative ideology, the years of toil and hardship may finally have come to fruition: Tax pornography.

It’s hard to imagine a more elegant solution. Not only do you get to take more money from people, who if allowed to keep it would probably just spend it on, well, pornography, but you also get to moralize at the same time.

Of course, the bill introduced by Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas was named the “Internet Safety and Child Protection Act.” You have to understand that to get any legislation through congress these days it must somehow be “for the children.” Highway bill? For the children. Tax reform? For the children. Agriculture bill? “How many more babies must perish before we will act on sorghum subsidies?”

In addition to a 25% tax, the bill would also require sites to use an age verification system such as that used by tobacco and alcohol sites in which you enter personal information and an ID number from a driver’s license or passport making those documents in effect “porn licenses.”

And you thought your teenager was anxious to get his learner’s permit before?

Proponents of the measure point out that there are over 420 million Internet porn sites. (This came as a shock to us as we have only 175 million bookmarked.) That’s nearly two porn sites for every American resident (only one if you count illegal aliens).

What might be the ulitimate effect of the legislation should it pass?  A mysterious increase in the number of server farms in the Cayman Islands.


July 28, 2005 at 11:12 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 27, 2005

what do you want from people who made the average white band a hitmaker?

Last week marked the 30th anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz space mission in which the American and Soviet spacecraft docked in orbit around the earth. The mission had been intended to help ease tensions between the two superpowers during what was then known as the “Cold War.” This is not to be confused with a “hot war” in which you shoot at each other. A cold war is more civilized in that you have other people shoot at each other.

We must try to be charitable when examining these ancient craft and take them for what they were. It can be difficult with our modern sensibilities of course. After all, there is more computing power in a single charred microprocessor aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia that disintegrated and crashed than in the entire Apollo spacecraft! Talk about primitive.

Even more surprising, none of the components of the Apollo spacecraft were designed to be reused as it was considered too dangerous given the extreme stresses placed on the equipment during the rigors of space flight. The Space Shuttle however benefits from incorporating the innovative engineering solution of “not worrying about that.”

The mid-seventies marked a rather sedate time in space exploration as manned flights had become boring and routine. It wasn’t until the advent of the Space Shuttle program that a kind of NASCAR-like excitement was put back in the space program.

This cannot be said for the Russians whose own space shuttle program followed the Soviet Union into oblivion leaving them with, believe it or not, the boring old Soyuz still! How jealous they must be, regularly going back and forth to the International Space Station in those creaky old capsules these past few years while our own technologically advanced Space Shuttle sat majestically in its hangar.

Coincidentally, this week marked the return of the Space Shuttle to earth orbit.

Well, most of it anyway.


July 27, 2005 at 11:33 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 26, 2005

they tried to poison our poison! the animals!

In the apparent belief that cocaine doesn’t kill people nearly fast enough, it was revealed this week that Osama bin Laden had attempted to purchase tons of cocaine from Columbian drug cartels with plans to spike it with poison and distribute it in the US.

The 2002 plot failed partly because the Columbian drug lords realized after doing some financial modeling that killing off your customers too quickly might be bad for business. That would be like cigarette manufacturers adding asbestos and cyanide to their products. Well, okay, they did that, but those were simpler times. The cocaine cartels are also facing fierce enough competition as is from crystal meth, heroin, and Playstation 2. “And don’t get me started on Red Bull,” noted one distressed drug kingpin.

Clearly bin Laden had hoped to sow fear and panic in the music industry, Hollywood, and the Bush twins’ dorm rooms. The threat highlighted the inherent hazards of depending so heavily on foreign sources of cocaine and has led some to call for the creation of a Strategic Cocaine Reserve. As one Washington insider observed, “We have to start thinking about where our vulnerabilities are. A disruption in the Warped Tour alone could have grave economic consequences. And just try getting a sitcom script rewritten at the last minute. ‘Joey’ would suck. More than it does now.  Seriously.  You'd be surprised.”

The ramifications go beyond just a few cancelled rock tours and bad sitcoms but goes to the very heart of the culture.  "What if people were deprived of the daily distractions of TV, music and movies?  They might start paying attention to the news and politics," fretted one K Street lobbyist chain-smoking Lucky Strikes across from a Starbucks, "There are no winners there, I can tell you that," he added as a new Starbucks opened to his left.

For now we appear safe.  As one Homeland Security official told gathered reporters, "Rest assured, the cocaine supply in this country is safe and secure.  Say, anyone have a tissue?  My nose is really runny.  Must be allergies.  Or a cold.  Or something."


July 26, 2005 at 11:31 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 25, 2005

they’re calling it “braingate”

Blindsided by a candidate who appears capable and well respected, Democrats have had to abandon their original plan to portray the President’s choice for the Supreme Court as someone clearly unqualified for the position. Instead, Democrats plan on painting the nominee, John G. Roberts, as woefully overqualified to serve as a Supreme Court Justice.

“Okay, so we hire the guy today,” said one Democratic Senate staffer, “spend all this time and money training him and getting him up to speed and by the time he figures out which week he’s supposed to bring in the donuts, he gets bored and leaves for something better.”

Observed another, “Sure, he says he wants the job now, but that’s what they all say. We need somebody up there who’s going to stay awhile, not just pad the resume.”

Roberts has begun to fight back, issuing a statement saying in part, “Certain individuals have been exaggerating my qualifications for purely partisan political reasons and I can not stand by while my reputation is inflated in such a manner.”

The White House is resisting a request for Roberts' college transcripts calling it a “fishing expedition.” “So what if he might have gotten a few As here and there, ever hear of grade inflation?” remarked one White House staffer.

Senator Charles Schumer quickly fired back, “Judge Roberts cannot deny he graduated from Harvard and Harvard Law. You want a red flag? There’s your red flag.”

How well this strategy will play is hard to tell at the moment. Polls are mixed with 12% supporting Roberts, 9% against and 79% saying they didn’t even know Julia Roberts had a law degree but in any case "you go, girl."


July 25, 2005 at 11:18 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 22, 2005

we're going to need a bigger calendar

The international community has become concerned over a looming date shortage. It appears the current convention of marking each terrorist attack with a single month-day moniker may be inadequate to modern needs.

As one highly placed individual in the European Union noted, “Look, we already had 9-11, 3-11 and 7-7, then with yesterday we have 7-21. That leaves us with 361 dates. 362 in a leap year. If we don’t act soon it will just end up being a mess.”

 The issue is compounded by an emerging jealousy that the western powers are hogging all the “good" dates. “Look, we understand they don’t have complete control over it,” commented one UN official from Asia, “but they’re being a little selfish. 9-11. That’s just a classic. 3-11, 7-7, these are great dates, they’re dates people can rally around. What are we going to be left with? 8-29? What the hell kind of a date is that?”

International leaders are deep into discussions regarding what new naming convention to adopt. There was some debate about going to the Iraqi system of using time stamps, but that was rejected after it was realized that, “remembering the victims of 4-17 8:22:47 PM ” lacked romance.

While we wait for a solution the best we can hope for is that they run out of terrorists before we run out of dates.


July 22, 2005 at 12:54 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 21, 2005

if i had a nickel every time there was a potentially catastrophic intrusion into restricted airspace...

For those of you who have been worrying about the possibility that there may have been 3401 incursions into restricted airspace over such areas as nuclear power plants, chemical manufacturing facilities and government buildings since 9-11 you can all breathe a sigh of relief. It turns out there were only 3400.

According to Master Sgt. John Tomassi of NORAD, the current system that produced these results has “been a success.” By this measure, Brad and Jennifer’s marriage was a success, Gigli was a success and my college roommate’s term paper on the effects of drinking Tuborg Gold on the cognitive and motor functions of dorm residents was a success as well.

A report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) suggests that the current system in which responsibility for monitoring restricted airspace is divided up among three separate agencies may be part of the problem. The agencies involved rejected this conclusion noting the importance to national security of dispersing accountability as widely as possible. And anyone who has ever attended a school board meeting understands the natural efficiencies that spring from leadership-by-committee.

What can we as average American citizens do?  A good first step:  Duck!

July 21, 2005 at 02:12 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 20, 2005

roe vs. wade? can't say that rings a bell.

President Bush nominated John G. Roberts (or Robert G. Johnson, we’re having trouble keeping that straight), for the vacancy at the US Supreme Court created by retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

The move was seen in some quarters as the President’s attempt to curry favor with a segment of the population that has been traditionally overlooked by the GOP: Middle aged white guys.

“I think we’d all like to think he was chosen for his qualifications alone but are we really confident he is the best candidate available, or is this just all part of the Republican Party’s electoral strategy?” observed one independent political consultant. "It's going to take more than one Supreme Court nomination and some country club photo ops for middle aged white guys to feel their issues are being heard."

Still, many in the middle aged white guy community greeted the news enthusiastically.  Said one celebrant drinking the traditional dry martini of his people, "it was our time, that's all there is to it, it was our time."

Johnson has a,… no, it’s Roberts, isn’t it? Roberts has had a relatively short tenure on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, leaving only a small number of written opinions most of which consist of his critiques of the take-out places in downtown Washington.

“We’ll be examining his lunch orders very carefully,” noted Senator Harry Reid. “It’s important that we look for any signs of extreme right-wing condiments. Such as Hunt’s Catsup. That would be a sign right there.”


July 20, 2005 at 11:46 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 19, 2005

innocence is in the eye of the beholder

In an effort to stay ahead of rapidly moving events, President Bush has once again raised the bar on what it would take to fire an administration official involved in the Valerie Plame leak. 

In a statement released by the White House, President Bush said, “There is no place in my administration for anyone who would be involved in the leaking of classified information to the press and also capital murder.” 

A White House aide added, “It’s as simple as this. You get caught exposing a CIA agent’s identity and then committing a homicide and also making a casserole from his liver, you are out, end of story.”

Reporters continued to press White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan on the issue:

Dick Gregory: “Scott, you haven’t been straight with us on this one.”
Scott McClellan: “You guys know me. I wouldn’t lie to you. Also, I’ve never killed and eaten anyone.”
Dick Gregory: “What about Dick Cheney?”
Scott McClellan: “As you know, I cannot comment on events involving an ongoing investigation.”


July 19, 2005 at 01:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack